Guidelines for Compliance with the Copyright Laws in the Use of Print, Non-print and Electronic Materials in the CUHK Library

1. Preamble

The Chinese University of Hong Kong Library (hereafter, the Library) is fully committed to continuing its support for teaching, research and private study in the University. The academic library is a resource for the provision of information and scholarly literature in a variety of formats for the benefit of the University community.

While the free flow of information is and should be a basic tenet of an academic library service, the Library is nevertheless bound to observe some strict provisions in the Hong Kong Ordinances on copyright and intellectual property, and to abide by the spirit of "fair dealing" in copying copyrighted material (see Section 3 below).

The guidelines below provide Faculty and students with a general indication of the importance of these Ordinances in relation to key areas of Library use, and contain general advice on how to avoid breaking, or infringing, the intellectual property and copyright laws.

2. Do's and Don'ts

What can and can't you do in the Library?

A. Photocopying / Printing 

  • Don't interpret the provision of photocopying machines and printers in the Library as the University in any way 'authorizing' infringement of copyright by you and your colleagues.
  • Use copyright work in a "fair" manner only for your research or private study, for criticism, review or news reporting, and for giving or receiving instruction in a specified course of study provided by the University. (See Section 3 below for more about Fair Dealing.)
  • Don't copy an entire book – even if you do the copying in stages over a period of time.

B. The Reserve Collection

  • Photocopied Articles 
    There has been a practice to allow for one copy of an article from a single journal issue to be placed on Reserve by Faculty for loan by students. This service is still available and is under continuous review.
  • Electronic Reserve
    Electronic Reserve allows students to find, view and print course materials that have been placed online by instructors via the Web-based Library Catalogue. Electronic Reserve materials include class Websites and scanned images of non-copyrighted course-related documents such as syllabuses, lecture notes, problem sets and solutions, etc.

    • You can link electronic journal articles from electronic databases subscribed by the Library provided that the linking is available and allowed by the database vendors/publishers; for example:
      • Cambridge Journals Online
      • EBSCOhost
      • Emerald Management Xtra
      • IEEE Xplore
      • Institute of Physics
      • JSTOR
      • Karger Online
      • OvidSP
      • Oxford Journals Online
      • ProQuest
      • ScienceDirect
      • SpringerLink
      • Wiley InterScience
    • You can add URLs for full-text journal articles available from these databases to Electronic Reserve.
    • Don't place book chapters on the system. Copyrighted materials cannot be posted unless the instructors have received the copyright holder's specific written permission (see also paragraph F below).

C. Electronic Databases

  • You must access via the CUHK campus network or the Library's Easy Access service. 
  • You must be a CUHK member of staff or a student or an authorized user to access most of the databases and e-journals, because of vendor licence restrictions. 
  • Don't undertake 'systematic' or 'excessive' downloading or reproduction (see Section 5 below for a definition).
    Note: Each database vendor ensures that the Library signs a licence agreement setting out what can and cannot be done with the copyrighted material therein. Printing, downloading, hyper-linking may or may not be allowable. Since no two vendor licences are the same, Library users must follow the rules laid down within the particular database they are accessing. Legal action will be taken by the copyright owner for any infringement. The database will be immediately withdrawn by the owner, denying all other CUHK users access and compromising the University's reputation. This rule applies to all database use.

D. Inter-Library Loans and Document Delivery

  • You can only ask for the delivery of one copy of one article from a single issue of a journal, or the photocopy of a reasonable portion from a book. 
  • If you need more journal articles than the law allows, you may request the Library to obtain such materials on your behalf from other document delivery suppliers by paying royalty in addition to the standard cost. Otherwise, your request will be cancelled.

E. Teaching

Please refer to the University's guidelines at

F. Course Packs and Copyright Clearance

G. Non-print (Audiovisual) Materials

The Library purchases legal copies of audiovisual items for use within its premises by students or registered library users and for loan to the staff of the University for viewing on campus.

  • Don't broadcast such material, or show it on any kind of fee-paying basis. 
  • Don't use such material outside the campus. Use the material on campus.

3. Fair Dealing

Though the Ordinance allows for copying in educational institutions for "things done for the purposes of instruction or examination", it should be understood at the outset that this is not a blanket licence to copy. The test on whether copyright is infringed centres on the concepts of "fair dealing". The copyright law permits fair dealing of a work for research or private study, for criticism or review, and for giving or receiving instruction in a specified course of study provided by an educational establishment. To decide whether an act of dealing with a copyright work is "fair", the court shall take into account all the circumstances of the case, in particular:

  1. the purpose and nature of the dealing, including whether the dealing is for a non-profit-making purpose and whether the dealing is of a commercial nature;
  2. the nature of the work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion dealt with in relation to the work as whole; and
  4. the effect of the dealing upon the potential market for or value of the work.

4. Reviewing and Monitoring by the Library

The Library management and staff undertake review and monitoring of the use of copyrighted material on Library premises in order to minimize the possibility of any infringement. Bilingual notices are conspicuously placed near all Library photocopying machines reminding users of the circumstances under which legitimate copies can be made and reserving the right to take action against any infringement. In this way, patrons using these machines are reminded that anyone making copies of copyrighted material assumes a personal responsibility for questions of infringement which may arise from their use.

The onus is upon each member of the University community as well as visitors to CUHK libraries to observe the Ordinances on copyright while availing themselves of Library services and materials. Note also the text of the Senate Library Regulations below.

5. Library Regulations: Extract on Copyright

…"Loss of Privileges [Endorsed by Senate]

  • Observing the law on copyright and systematic or excessive downloading of electronic content:

The use of Library materials and facilities is subject to data protection legislation, copyright law and vendor licence agreements. Users must observe the applicable copyright law and the terms of any vendor licence agreements for materials they use, including print materials, electronic resources and materials in all other formats. The Law states that serious infringement in photocopying, scanning or downloading of copyrighted material could lead to civil action or even criminal prosecution.

Systematic or excessive downloading of electronic content is expressly forbidden. 'Systematic' or 'excessive' downloading is defined as a deliberate attempt to copy or distribute a whole or significant part of an electronic resource using 'robots' or any such software, or any manual means designed for wholesale infringement, which results in a vendor licence violation on the part of the University and/or its Library. Details of the applicable copyright law and licence agreements are available on the University Website.

A gross infringement of Copyright may subject the user to a loss of Library privileges:

  1. The user's name will be recorded in the Library's register;
  2. The user's borrowing privilege will be suspended for eight weeks from the day of violation;
  3. For the student, a letter to this effect will be issued by the Library to the Faculty Dean, College Dean of Students and Department Chair to which the person belongs and to ITSC, and/or authority concerned.

Repeated offenses may lead to a total loss of the privilege of using the Libraries."…

Louise Jones 
University Librarian

(1st edition: 21.08.01)
(Revised: 15.12.05)
(Revised : 19.07.07 with the enforcement of the Copyright (Amendment) Ordinance 2007)
(Revised: 03.10.13)